Old Gods, New Tricks

Recently, as I was stuffing pork bones into a ziplock to make soup later, my dad said “you’ve become such a homesteader!”

Since I don’t have an actual backyard farm or a little house on the prairie, I asked “how so?” To which he replied “well, trying to grow food, cooking everything from scratch, making bone broth, whittling and chopping wood, this Old Norse thing.”

And…he’s not wrong. I did end up Googling the money and space required for having a small flock of sheep later that day, since my absurd backup life goal is becoming a shepherd. As it turns out, it’s roughly 1,000 USD before fencing and maintenance costs, and five ewes would fit comfortably in the front yard. So I have the space, but not the budget.

In talking to other Heathens, I’ve noticed there’s a definite trend to become a little old fashioned. But in a wholesome and self-sufficient way by picking up forgotten skills, as opposed to nostalgia for an age that never existed. We have a high proportion of artisans, brewers, fiber workers, accomplished home cooks and backyard farmers. Some of us end up being bushcrafters and preppers. And this usually kicks in after being scooped up by the gods, with surprising regularity and frequency.

It’s happened to me, as well. I had been cooking from scratch and playing with yarn for a while, but the desire to make my own Sauerkraut, naalbind, work with wood and contemplate spinning my own yarn (while possibly raising sheep for the fiber) came after Heathenry.

While I wholeheartedly believe the gods are willing to adapt a bit to our modern life (especially considering the internet is the best recruiting and networking tool for Heathenry), they seem keen on us being as handy as possible.

I doubt this is doomsday prep. Odin’s concept of that is wandering around and picking up esoteric wisdom, not stockpiling non-perishables. Considering the survivors of Ragnarok are already pre-assigned, I’m not sure how much good rice and chocolate bars would do you, anyhow. And I doubt that our gods would nudge such creatures of habit as humans to alter our lifestyles for the aesthetic. It’s not a compelling reason and doesn’t add a whole lot to our personal development. Ask any former mallgoth.

Some of this can also be easily explained by a stronger tendency among pagans for environmentalism, frugality and being more mindful about our use of resources–which all lead to a lot of the same behaviors.

We also, for many of the same reasons we gravitate towards otherwise forgotten faiths and gods, have a fondness for history. Depending on your path, you’re likely to be doing a lot of research anyway, so it stands to reason that you’d come across a lot of older skillsets in that process.

Are we just trying to get in touch with something archaic on our own, because we find it interesting? Because the land is frequently part of our spirituality? Because we think it gives us better insight to how the people who originally honored our gods lived?

Better insight to the gods themselves, even? Skills like fiber spinning, animal husbandry, farming and brewing were utterly vital to human survival before mass-production. And the same mentality applied to the gods. It makes sense, then, that it would have been considered laudable and sacred work. Hence, the importance of Frigg, Thor, Frey and Aegir as participants in, and representations of, that work.

Perhaps our gods nudge us towards it, as part of a larger scheme to develop us as humans. To make us more capable, more productive, more contemplative. To connect us with history, for the sake of a better understanding of our place in the big picture.

I don’t know for certain. And to an extent, I suspect that is particular to the god and devotee, as well.

All I know is, the gods have kind of ruined modern life for me, in the best possible way.


Further reading (and watching):

The “Modern Life is Rubbish” series, from Heathen Embers

Spin Like a Viking,” by Lois Swales on YouTube

Vikings Didn’t Knit! (Nalbinding)” by Good and Basic on YouTube

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